After a quick tour and a leisurely lunch in the medieval village of Blois with its own impressive château, we drove down the road to visit the largest of the châteaux in the Loire Valley, Château de Chambord. The idea for this château was conceived in the 16th century by François I, who had suggested redirecting the Loire River so that it would flow in front of it. In the end he settled for diverting the Closson river to flow in front of his extravagant château. The double-helix staircase inside keeps the people going upstairs separated from the people going downstairs, and may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Château de Chenonceau
The next visit on our châteaux tour turned out to be our favorite, Château de Chenonceau, with its Italian-style gallery stretching across the Cher River. A series of women are given credit for the way the 16th-century château turned out, including the first owner’s wife, Catherine Briçonnet; Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of the French King Henry II, who actually bequeathed the château to her; Catherine de’Medici, who turned the bridge into the Italian gallery; King Henry III’s widow, Louise of Lorraine, the White Queen; et al., with halls, bedrooms and gardens named after each of them.
Château du Clos Lucé
Just down the street from the Château d’Amboise, is Château du Clos Lucé, the medieval fortified manor house where Leonardo da Vinci lived the last years of his life, as the invited guest of King François I. The museum and the gardens of Clos Lucé display approximately 40 models which have been constructed from the drawings of da Vinci’s inventions. These inventions were never constructed during da Vinci’s lifetime, and it is thanks to IBM that they have finally been built and displayed here at Château du Clos Lucé today.
A short walk down the street from Château du Clos Lucé in the village of Amboise led us to our last château of the day, Château d’Amboise. We arrived too late to take a tour inside, but got to appreciate its imposing presence from the exterior, and from the ambiance its domination brings to the timbered houses and winding cobbled streets of the medieval town of Amboise.